It is a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of a large house must be in want of a writer.
I'm channeling Jane Austen this morning because the marriage mart story from her novel Pride and Prejudice is an excellent analogy for the people and processes in the publishing industry. Maybe it was all the P's that brought it to mind.
Consider that most writers are the Bennet sisters, with little but our charms to recommend us.
We all know Jane Bennet writers, who are beautiful artists. They're in love with the craft and are incapable of saying a bad word about it. They're inevitably talented and the beauty comes through in their work. We admire the Janes, even if we do sometimes want to shake them until their teeth rattle.
Then there are the Mary Bennet writers. You know, the rule makers, busy dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's, grimly determined to do Right and Proper. So uptight about the craft that they could swallow a lump of coal and pass a diamond.
Kitty Bennet writers suffer for their art: I Agonize Over Everything Therefore I am a Great Artist. They're forever petulant and whining because they think it makes them legit.
The Lydia Bennets are easy to spot because they angle to be the center of attention. They believe being a writer should be nonstop fun, glam, all play, no work. They don't care, don't listen and careen about demanding a good time and throwing tantrums when they don't get one.
If you're not a Jane, and you want to make it in the industry, you could do worse than emulate Lizzie Bennet. Having a sense of humor never hurts. Neither does being realistic. Holding out for the real deal versus settling what you can get is never a bad thing.
If writers are the Bennet sisters, then naturally publishers are the Mr. Collinses, Mr. Bingleys, Mr. Wickhams and Mr. Darcys. Publication is a dance. If you want to waltz with them, you'd better put on your finest and wrangle an invitation to the ball. Looking good might catch their attention, but remember, you only have your charms to recommend you.
Mr. Collins publishers will get you into print, all right, but you may not like what you have to put up with in the process. If you're a Charlotte Lucas, maybe you can deal with it. The Mr. Wickhams will con you, use you and toss you aside the second you don't serve their purpose. The Mr. Bingleys are nice, solid publishers who will give you a comfortable career.
If we're going to be honest, though, we all want a shot at Mr. Darcy.
The Mr. Darcy publishers are as elusive as they are affluent. They generally behave as if you're beneath their notice. They might offend you to the point of vowing never to dance with them. But if you keep showing up at the assemblies and balls, something you do may intrigue the Mr. Darcy publisher. He may start to see your better qualities. He may casually ask you to dance. (Whatever he's done to insult you, this is not the time to tell him to piss off. This is when you politely say I thank you yes.)
Whatever Bennet you are as a writer, in publishing none of us ever get to marry Mr. Darcy and go live at Pemberly. It's a new dance every time you pitch an idea, write a novel and/or see it published. There are a thousand other prospective partners at the dance, hoping and actively trying to catch Mr. Darcy's eye.
Hopefully all of the above doesn't make me sound like Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hearst. I'd much rather be your Aunt Gardner.